How to Prepare for Phone Interview Questions (Examples Included)

how to prepare for phone interview questions

When creating a job hunting checklist, be sure not to leave out a step that’s commonly overlooked:

Review phone interview questions.

The phone interview is one of the most important steps in the whole process. Why? Because your success there determines whether you get an in-person interview or have your resume tossed into the shredder.

So today we’re going to walk through what phone interviews are, how to prepare for them, and finish up by looking at some common phone interview questions. We have a separate article just for phone interview tips.

What Is a Phone Interview?

A phone interview is essentially a “pre-interview.” It’s a quick and inexpensive way to find out if you’re worth further consideration as a candidate.

A recruiter typically receives hundreds of applications for every job they post. Her job is to narrow down the list and identify the top 3-5 candidates. Which means your first job is to get into that select group that’s invited to interview with the hiring manager.

Why Do Recruiters Use Phone Interviews?

It takes a lot of time to conduct interviews, especially in-person. There isn’t enough time in the day to schedule every candidate that appears to have the minimum qualifications. So, recruiters love phone interviews!

The recruiter’s goal is to narrow down the playing field, quickly rank each candidate, then present the top candidates for next steps.

How Do You Prepare?

It’s important to prepare for a phone interview as you would any other interview. Since speed and efficiency are key, you must concisely communicate your value. Give them exactly what they need to hear to give the thumbs up.

  1. Do Your Research
    Read the job description. Understand the key skills that will make a candidate successful. Spend time researching the company and the person you will interview with. You should go in knowing more than the average customer knows. Gain this knowledge through the company website, press releases, social media accounts, LinkedIn profiles, employee reviews, and anything else you can get your hands on. Why are they in business? Who is their customer? What problems exist that you can help solve?
  2. Prepare Your Answers
    The research you’ve done guides your prep work. For every skill identified that defines success, you need a story to tell. For every job requirement, you need to be prepared to discuss your experience. Stories are powerful. Identify a story from your background that demonstrates how you have done something similar. Use school projects, volunteer work, or internships if you don’t yet have the real-world experience. Practice telling your story in a detailed, yet concise way. The STAR Method can assist you.
  3. Ask Questions
    At the end of your interview, the recruiter will ask if you have questions. Always have questions! It shows you’re engaged and interested. Create a list ahead of time using the research you did. What more can you learn from this person about the company or position?

Common Phone Interview Mistakes to Avoid

A phone interview may not seem like a big deal, but there are a few things you should avoid at all costs:

  1. Don’t Wing It
    Being on your phone seems easy. You can take a call anywhere, right? Wrong! You need to plan for this one. Prepare your environment. Set aside whatever time is necessary to give your undivided attention. This means going to a designated quiet space. Keep a copy of your resume in front of you. Have a list of your stories (proud moments, strengths, weaknesses, and accomplishments) to serve as reminders.
  2. Don’t Read
    While it’s perfectly acceptable to have your cheat sheets in front of you, don’t read them word for word! Your recruiter will know because you’ll sound flat and not make a good impression. Maintain your tone of voice, show your enthusiasm, and be engaged.
  3. Don’t Get Distracted
    It’s easy to get distracted by things going on around you. The interviewer isn’t sitting across the desk. It feels very casual. Don’t let yourself slip. Keep it professional. Stay on your game. Focus on marketing yourself and telling the stories that will sell you.

Types of Phone Interview Questions to Expect (And How to Answer Them)

Remember that phone interviews are more of a “pre-interview.” Recruiters will focus on the things that are most important to the job. They want to hear that you have the exact skill set they’re looking for before they bring you in to meet in person.

  1. Walk me through your resume.
    This is the perfect time to tell them a pre-planned story of your career. Begin by sharing your motivation or reason for choosing the path you did. This could be your college choice or degree choice. Next move on to your work experience. Begin with the earliest job and work up to the most current. If you’re looking for your first job out of college, it’s okay to talk about any part-time or summer jobs but be sure to keep the skills and experiences relevant to the job you’re applying for now. Also, where it makes sense, include school projects or volunteer work. Each piece of your story should share a common theme of demonstrating your passion, goals, and experience.
  2. Why do you want to work here?
    Now is the time to dazzle them with your research. Recruiters want to know you put effort into learning more about them. They want to hire someone who is passionate about working for them, not someone that is applying just because she needs a steady paycheck. Show how working there would contribute to your career goals.
  3. What salary range are you seeking?
    Recruiters want to make sure you’re in the ballpark. They like to have you put a number out first. It gives them a better idea of whether they can afford you. If you give a number way above their range, they will worry you won’t stay. Do your research! Check out sites like that show ranges based on geographic locations. Don’t be afraid to ask them what their range is versus giving a number. It’s okay to reinforce your enthusiasm and state that you’re sure you can come to a fair agreement when the time comes.

Otherwise, just be prepared to share stories from your past: When have you done the things they list as being important to this job? Practice telling those stories.

You’ve heard the saying, “Practice makes perfect.” The better you are at delivery, the more powerful your stories will sound in the moment.

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